Giovanni Battista Piranesi and workshop

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Giovanni Battista Piranesi and workshop
Sketches of Moldings. Verso: Sphinx-footed Pedestal, drawn over a Sketch of Lion
ca. 1770-1775.
Black chalk, pen and brown ink, on paper trimmed irregularly at right; verso: pen and brown ink over black chalk.
7 7/8 x 11 7/8 inches (210 x 320 mm)
Bequest of Junius S. Morgan and gift of Henry S. Morgan.

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Numbered at lower left, in graphite, "114".

Mrs. J.P. Morgan, New York; by descent to her sons Junius S. Morgan, Princeton and Paris (no mark, see Lugt 1536) and Henry S. Morgan, New York.

Stampfle, Felice. Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Drawings in the Pierpont Morgan Library. New York : Dover, 1978, no. 47, repr.


This complex sheet has several layers of drawing, by different hands. The pen drawings of the recto and verso are by Piranesi himself, but the chalk drawing of the recto must be by a studio assistant. The pedestal on the verso relates to an earlier red chalk drawing also at the Morgan, 1966.11:101. The verso pedestal is itself drawn over an earlier chalk sketch of the Barberini lion bas relief, but which may also be the work of a studio assistant.
The Sphinx-footed pedestal of the verso is akin to numerous ancient Roman examples, among them works in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Venice (inv. 1887.114, from the Grimani collection), the Musee du Louvre (inv. MA611), and the British Museum (inv. 1805,0703.223), although the precise model for Piranesi's drawing has not yet been identified. Piranesi may have based this sketch on his own earlier drawing (1966.11:101), for this pen drawing seems to be in his style of the 1770s, when he was at work on the Vasi, Candelabri (and when he was most active as a dealer in real and composite antiquities), although the chalk drawing (1966.11:101) is likely from the previous decade.

Associated names: 

Morgan, Jane Norton, 1868-1925, former owner.
Morgan, Junius Spencer, 1892-1960, former owner.
Morgan, Henry S. (Henry Sturgis), 1900-1982, former owner.